Tagsocial networking

Forrester: Online Community Best Practices

F

Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang shares this great presentation about Online Community Best Practices. It’s 51 slides packed with useful advices for those of you who are planning to launch an online community of any kind. Note that this presentation won’t save you proper consulting and/or experimenting. But it contains excellent guidelines and is a good point to start from.

Looking into social networks, forums and blogs and other ways of communication to leverage the power of your community? Look no further, or at least have a look at this presentation first.

(Thanks for sharing, Jeremiah!)

On Bebo.com, and why it’s important to make invitations opt-in

O

Web companies of the world, if there is one lesson to learn, it’s this: Be careful when sending out invitation emails.

I just spammed, by complete accident, my whole Gmail address book through Bebo. This is something that may never happen, ever. So how could it?

Given the recent acquisition of the Social Networking Site Bebo.com by AOL (for the bargain of USD 850 million), I had another look at the successful and popular British site. I did so with a new account. Clicking through the features, I also had a look at the Friends tab, which is where you manage your connections and invite friends.

To get your social network together quickly, there’s also the option to have Bebo check your webmail address book (on Hotmail, Gmail etc.), which is a fairly standard feature. Sadly, often all contacts are pre-selected, so if you click to confirm, everybody gets an email from this service with your name. However, usually there’s also an easy way to unselect all of your contacts, so nobody gets an invite in your name.

With Bebo, when you enter your credentials so the service can check out who’s in both your address book and on Bebo, you get a long list of your contacts divided in three parts (all contacts are checked in each part):

  • Friends found on Bebo who are in your address book
  • Friends of friends on Bebo who you MAY know
  • Invite friends to Bebo from your address book

What’s missing? An “uncheck all” button. You can skip this step, but the relevant button it’s not exactly featured prominently.

Despite being quite savvy with this kind of thing, the last part of this list slipped my attention, which resulted in Bebo sending out invitation emails to all of my contacts in my name. Just how horrible this is I don’t even want to go into. Just imagine the same happening to you: All of your friends and family receiving this odd email they know nothing about, bad enough. But it’s also all your current and former colleagues and clients. To all these recipients, it looks like you endorse this service.

I do not endorse Bebo.com.

Bebo is harmless enough, although in my opinion not very well executed compared, for example, to Facebook. Also, it was clearly my own fault to enter my email credentials. Then again, this has become a standard procedure for most Web 2.0 services.

I just finished writing an apologetic email to at least some of my contacts, mostly clients. I don’t ever want to have to write a humilitating email like this again; it caused my friends and clients, and myself, a lot of unnecessary trouble.

While I understand that user numbers are easiest to grow by endorsements and mass emailing, this can’t be the right way to go.

So web companies, get this step right! Opt-in is the way to go, not opt-out. (And don’t even think about doing this Bebo-style, with a multiple opt-out.)

To all who received this email, again, I’d like to apologize. Don’t click the link, it’s not worth the trouble.

What’ll happen to our data after Facebook jumps the shark?

W

Facebook has, very recently, made it possible to delete accounts instead of just deactivating them. Deleting the account is the only option to really make Facebook let go of your personal information, and until recently this was notoriously hard to accomplish.

Facebook has pretty decent privacy features, or at least privacy control features, as online social networks go. What’s laid out in the terms of service is a different story, though, as users (including me, of course) agree to somewhat ridiculously liberal terms of service. This includes, although it isn’t limited, to allowing Facebook to sell, license, and distribute all the content users provide, as well as fairly generous data-mining, like the following:

“We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services, Facebook Platform developers and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile.”

But Facebook keeps finding itself in a dilemma between marketing, privacy, between business and user interest, as Sarah Zhang asks on Harvard’s (great!) Digital Natives blog.:

A few months ago, when Beacon was making its debut, I had the opportunity to sit in a guest lecture by Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer of Facebook. He spoke a lot on the need to balance business decisions with PR, which the company, given its success, has done quite well. I’m inclined to believe it won’t have this type of popularity forever though. So at point will users become disenchanted with Facebook? But will this be a matter of privacy or convenience? Will Facebook have permanently changed our conceptions of privacy by then?

First of all, I would second Sarah’s guess that Facebook and its social network siblings definitively have changed (and continue to do so) our notion of privacy. If this is good or bad I don’t want to even try to judge in this post.

But second, and this really scares me: When users get disenchanted with Facebook – which is inevitable at some point, given that Facebook is an online service and not built to last forever – will they try to make up for their financial losses by selling all the data? After all, with its current popularity, Facebook has all reason not to annoy its users too much, but to do what the majority wishes. But after the service has jumped the shark, it won’t have anything to lose. In whose hands, then, will our information end up?

Facebook, Google & Plaxo Join the DataPortability WorkGroup

F

This rocks: Duncan Riley just has a scoop on Techcrunch announcing that Facebook, Google and Plaxo are joining the DataPortability Workgroup

Duncan had been hinting at something big on Twitter, and what can I say, he was right: “I don’t joke when I say that the post I’ve written changes the entire game.”

DataPortability, and particularly being able to move around your social network, is said to be one of the hottest topics in 2008, and for a reason. Facebook and Google are in, so this is going to happen, fast.

More thoughts on this later, I’ll have to go dig up more stuff first.

Update: In the comments to Duncan’s TC article, Joey3fingers asks what this will mean exactly: “Are you just telling us that Google now has all of our contacts now?”

No, it doesn’t. Quite the contrary, what Data Portability (DP) means is that we (the users) get more control over our data. (See Robert Scoble’s explanation video here.) DP allows us to take our data and take it somewhere else.

Why is this so important?

Well, first of all, our data (more exactly: our social network information aka the social graph, i.e. who we know) is what essentially makes Facebook & co work, it’s the very core of their business. But so far, we couldn’t take our data and take it somewhere else: Our data was locked in there, which is why those social networks are usually referred to as a walled garden. Facebook’s terms of service basically sucks in our data and won’t allow us to take in elsewhere.

Second, so far we had to re-enter all of our social network data over and over again, whenever we joined a new service. Every single time, we had to re-enter our contacts and friends, sort them into groups and what not. The term Social Network Fatigue was coined for a reason.

Both issues could be tackled now, thanks to the big players joining the DataPoratbility Workgroup. So stay tuned.

Update: ReadWriteWeb also has coverage.

Must Read: Social Media 100

M

Social media allstar Chris Brogan has started a great series of posts on Social Media recently. By now, enough material has come together to dive right in. Every single post has one or more insights more than worth the time. Clearly, a must read for folks in the social media space.

You won’t be surprised I’m particularly fond of his Twitter Revisited post. (I’ve outed myself as a big fan of the micro blogging tool before.) Chris points out how much he has got out of Twitter during 2007.

Here’s a link to all Social Media 100 posts.

Study: Real vs Fantasized Identity on Social Networking Sites

S

FaberNovel Consulting has just published a study on best practices from social networking sites.

The whole study contains a great overview over what’s important if you analyze social networking sites. Two aspects stood out for me, though:

First, the authors pointed out four dimensions to help distinguish social networks:

FaberNovel: 4 Dimensions of Social Networks

Second, the study also covers the way, identity is constructed in social networks, and how different networks foster cater to different needs in this area. For instance, MySpace rather aims at exposing yourself and your fantasized identity, while Facebook serves more to expand your social network around your real identity:

FaberNovel: Real vs Fantasized Identity in Social Networks

It’s a great take and I highly recommend you scan this study. The whole presentation is also available in slide show format:

(via Read/WriteWeb)

Facebook Beacon is Serious Breach of Trust

F

Facebook recently introduced Facebook Beacon, a new technique for businesses and website operators to “enable your customers to share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.”

Beacon can be installed by simply adding a few lines of code:

Simply determine which user actions you would like publish to Facebook (…) Facebook Beacon actions include purchasing a product, signing up for a service, adding an item to a wish list, and more. When a user performs the action, they will be alerted that your website is sending a story to their profile and have a chance to opt out.

And that’s the problem right there: Why would a user have to opt out of broadcasting his activities? If I like to share what I’m doing right now, there are many ways to do so, like Twitter. (On Twitter you’re even prompted to just answer the one question: “What are you doing?”)

I do not want any website to be able to send my activities to Facebook, or any other service. And I’m not alone here.

As Forrster’s Charelene Li points out, she got blindsided by Facebook Beacon while instead she should be in control of the information in her Facebook account. She rightfully criticizes the lack of transparency Beacon brings for users.

Nate Weiner shares her concerns and is also annoyed:

I want Facebook to sit still and let me check out how many of my friends enjoy the movie Sleepover and look at pictures of people I didn’t like in High School. I don’t need Facebook extrapolating data about me as I go about my business on the web.

(By the way, this is what should be called Digital Rights Management: User being able to manager their own digital lifes.)

While I understand that Facebook needs to find ever more effective ways of advertising, this one clearly sides with their ad customers (which is good), but against their users (which is bad, bad, bad). Google Adsense was a win/win. But Beacon…? In Kathy Sierra’s words: How is Facbeook helping us users kick ass?

Beacon is crossing the line to too much integration, if there is such a thing, or rather: It’s the wrong kind of integration. Folks will start feeling alienated and annoyed, and in my eyes Beacon will seriously backfire.

Luckily, this is Teh Interwebs, and someone already came up with a solution. Feel free to check out Nate Weiner’s Beacon Blocker.